Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Windows 8 Activation error code #0xC004C003

Recently my son's HP Envy M6 laptop computer with Windows 8 received a message that the Activation code was being blocked and I had to buy a new activation code (IOW a new retail version of Windows 8); the activation error was #0xC004C003. The computer had been bought from Best Buy about 2 1/2 years ago. I was finally able to track down the problem, which was the fault of Best Buy, but it was not the result of any help from them. Had I not had a cursory knowledge of Windows Operating Systems  software, I doubt the problem would has been fixed. I first check the tech forums for a fix and found nothing. I contacted Microsoft and they advised me to take it back to Best Buy, which I did.

The Tech at Best Buy first tried to say it wasn't a warranty problem, because it was a software issue (the computer had a 2 year extended warranty for hardware). At this point I explained (a little too forcefully says my son) that since they had loaded the software and now Microsoft had blocked the Activation code, Best Buy had apparently violated Microsoft's Licensing Agreement, and it was their  responsibility to supply me with a working OS. The Tech wrote up the repair and advised they may may have to re-install the software. I tried to explain that simply reinstalling the same OS Software would not fix the problem, however I let them have a go at it anyway, figuring they had to go through the process before they started looking elsewhere. After a few days I received a phone call from Best Buy saying the re-install did not solve the problem so there was nothing they could do; they advised me to contact Microsoft again or HP. Prior to picking up my sons computer I re-contacted Microsoft and finally got the low down on my problem.

In order to explain what the problem was, I will need to explain a little of how Windows OSs are activated. Generally you can load a Windows OS from a variety of sources, but it is usually the Activation Code (sometimes called the COA, or Certificate of Authenticity) that determines whether you will have a successful activation of the Windows OS (ie Windows 7 or Windows 8) ; this code is series of 5 alphanumerical, 5 digit groups of numbers separated by dashes; xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx. The two main versions of a Windows OS is the OEM version and the retail version. The OEM version is sold by Microsoft to companies that mass produce computers; OEM software is only supposed to be used by the manufacturer for the original OS and not to be used as an Upgrade, which entails the loading of a retail version. Windows gives a big price break to computer manufacturers on the OEM software; usually half the price (or less) of their retail software. Although, as I said before, this OEM software is not to be used buy any entity, other than the manufacturer, and only to install the initial operating system, there is a thriving business selling OEM software on sites such as ebay. Prior to Windows 8, there was a good  chance that these OEM activation codes would work. When I checked the bios of my computer I saw the OEM software was Windows 7. When the computer was bought, Best Buy upgraded it with Windows 8 (You can probably see where this is going). For years now Microsoft and large computer manufacturers have been using a OS embedding technology called "SLIC" (software licensing description table), where a digital signature of the OEM software is embedded inside the BIOS by the manufacturer. This along with Windows 8 new Activation software, Microsoft can identify if someone is trying to, or has upgrade their computer using an OEM  Activation Code and blocks the code if that is the case. And this was the case.

I returned to Best Buy and asked for a manager. I explained the above and the manager immediately agreed to load a retail version of Windows 8 (actually 8.1) on my sons computer. While my problem appears to be solved, this should be news to those that have used OEM software in the past for anything other than the initial OS , that Windows 8 is different. So if you are getting the Activation error code #0xC004C003; this is most likely why. 

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